Billion-dollar quantum computing and AI fund announced by US

'Unprecedented' investment into unfathomably fast computers aims to accelerate scientific discoveries

Anthony Cuthbertson
Wednesday 26 August 2020 16:56
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Quantum computers have the potential to revolutionise everything from medical discoveries to space exploration
Quantum computers have the potential to revolutionise everything from medical discoveries to space exploration

The US plans to invest $1 billion (£760 million) in quantum computing and artificial intelligence research, the White House has announced.

The initiative will fund 12 hubs around the country and help the US in its bid to compete with China and Europe in two of the most promising next-generation technologies.

US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios described the investment as "unprecedented" and a "defining achievement" of the Trump administration.

"Built upon the uniquely American free market approach to technological advancement, these institutes will be world-class hubs for accelerating American innovation and building the 21st century American workforce," he said in a statement.

Governments around the world are investing heavily in the development of AI and quantum computers, as well as technology giants like Alphabet and Alibaba.

Last year, Google claimed to have achieved what is known as "quantum supremacy", whereby a quantum computer performed a calculation that is beyond the reach of even the most powerful of modern supercomputers.

Such capabilities are possible thanks to the unique way quantum computers combine quantum physics with computer science - replacing binary bits with quantum bits that can act as both a '1' and a '0' simultaneously.

This means that every qubit added to a quantum computing system increases its performance exponentially compared to traditional computers.

Quantum computing is one of the most hotly anticipated emerging technologies, heralding a new era of unfathomably fast computers.

They hold the potential to transform everything from medical and scientific discoveries, to space exploration - though some experts have warned that their development should be carefully monitored.

The advent of quantum computers could even result in a "quantum apocalypse", according to Tim Callan, a senior fellow at cyber security firm Sectigo.

He warned last year that when the first machines go online their vast power could effectively break the internet as we know it, crippling all online infrastructure.

“Our modern systems of finance, commerce, communication, transportation, manufacturing, energy, government, and healthcare will for all intents and purposes cease to function," he told The Independent.

Estimations for the date of this potential catastrophe, known as the "Z date", range from around five to 15 years if appropriate safeguards are not put in place.

“Harnessing the power of quantum mechanics in large-scale quantum computers will allow us to solve many valuable problems for humanity,” a research paper by Michele Mosca, co-founder of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo in Canada stated.

“But we must first take the catastrophic impact of breaking cybersecurity off the table by developing and deploying a suite a quantum-safe cryptographic tools before quantum computers arrive.”

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